BY KAITLYN MEADE | A flood poured into the park on Pier 25 Saturday as the gates to the playground opened for the first time since Superstorm Sandy’s surge destroyed it. The Tribeca pier welcomed families back to the newly refurbished playground, May 11 at an 11 a.m. ribbon cutting ceremony presided over by the Hudson River Park Trust and local officials.
“What’s really been great as I continued to watch the progress of [the playground] being built, every time I came down here, there were little noses pressed against the fence and mothers with their carriages, yearning,” said Madelyn Wils, president of the Hudson River Park Trust. “It really is not only the front door of the park but one of the few parks in the neighborhood.”
Several individuals and organizations threw parties and held events to raise money for the pier. One of the families that donated was the Basile family, and daughters Ava and Olivia took pictures beside their names on the plaque announcing the park’s reopening.
“I miss the spiderweb,” said eight-year-old Ava when asked by her mom Missy what she had missed about the park.
She wasn’t the only one. Kids crowded close to the gate for the ribbon cutting ceremony as Wils, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Councilmember Margaret Chin all wielded their giant scissors to snip the last barrier between the kids and their playground. Finally, the gate swung open and the children were set loose. Parents were lucky if they could keep up.
“It’s really kind of nice, just to see everyone back,” said Taylor Chapman, a fifth-grader at P.S. 150. She said it was sad to see the park deserted day after day, and her younger brother Dean would often ask why they couldn’t go to Pier 25.
“This is lovely, we’re so happy it’s back open,” said their mother Wendy, who is the head of P.S. 150’s P.T.A. Chapman is fighting to keep P.S. 150 in Tribeca after the city Department of Education proposed to move the small school to Chelsea.
“We love this neighborhood, the park and the pier. It’s everything we need. We come here after school,” said P.S. 150 parent Lenny Crooks, whose son Walt was ready to play soccer on the pier’s field. “It’s because of this that we’re strongly opposed to anything, to moving. Our little school doesn’t have facilities. We don’t need them, because we have this.”
Local electeds also made appearances. Sen. Squadron’s 2-year-old son was one of the first tugging on the chains at the playground gate. Councilmember Chin came up to declare, “we can’t wait to play miniature golf again!”
Nadler, in his speech before the ribbon cutting ceremony, said, “After Hurricane Sandy hit and the playground was devastated, we were all concerned about how long it would take and how hard it would be to repair, as was so much of the damage caused by Sandy. Thanks to the hard work of the Hudson River Park Trust and the Friends of Hudson River Park and so many of the people here today and the generosity of so many people in the community, the Pier 25 playground is again open in time for spring.”
There is no city or state funding for the park, which was originally supposed to be self-sustaining.
“FEMA has not yet reimbursed the Hudson River Park Trust for Irene or Sandy,” noted Community Board 1 chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes.
“It was really about the neighborhood coming together — they really came through,” said Steven Oppedal, of the Friends of Hudson River Park. The Friends were responsible for raising about $300,000 of the $450,000 it took to get the pier back open.
That money paid to repair some the damage done in October when the storm surge pushed underneath the pier and caused the paving beneath the park to buckle. The material under the park had to be replaced (this time, with heavier material that may better withstand future surges).
“It was, as you can see in the pictures, a complete disaster,” said Oppedal, referring to a series of ‘before’ photos that show how the playground surface collapsed in sections, bringing equipment down with it. However, he said, “it looks exactly like it did, which is amazing!”
Wils said the park-wide lights should come back online on May 24, with the individual piers getting light in the following month.